The people of Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, love milk. They love it so much that if you step into any of their favorite bars, you will get it on tap. The people who enjoy it say that too. It helps them keep calm and reduce stress levels. Such milk bars are scattered all over this central African country with a population of only 12 million.
People of all ages and genders gather at these bars and enjoy liters of fresh milk or milk that is yogurt-like by sitting on plastic chairs or benches. The local people call this yogurt-like milk ikivuguto. Some people prefer drinking hot milk while some prefer it cold. Many even follow the old and well-known custom of chugging the glass of milk at once. Those who sip it leisurely like to enjoy it with accompaniments like chapatis, bananas, or cakes. It does not matter how they prefer their glass, they just come in to unwind and relax. And to do that, they drink a lot of milk.
A Valuable Drink
The milk bars may have been around only in the last ten years or so but milk has long been part of their country’s history and culture, and now it is also part of their economy and modern identity. Cows were thought to be a source of status and wealth and one of the most valuable gifts you could give to a family or friend. They were so valuable that people would name their children Inyamibwa which means beautiful cow or Munganyinka which means as valuable as a cow. In traditional dances, women also depicted the Ankole cows that had a giant horn by raising their hands.
Back in 1994, the country experienced genocide that killed about 800,000 people in 100 days. Those who were killed were identified to be ethnic Tutsis. These were historical people who owned a lot of cattle. As Rwanda recovered from this terrible incident, the country’s government began looking to fight malnutrition and expand its economy through cows, once again. In the year 2006, Paul Kagame, the country’s President, also launched the Girinka program. It intends to provide every family of low income with one cow.
Tave Kosi: The Must-Try Albanian Lamb & Yogurt Casserole
It’s safe to say that every country’s national dish has a long and rich history that has, in one way or another, been influenced by other cultures. At least that’s certainly the case with Albania’s beloved Tave Kosi. Also known as tave elbasani after its city of origin, Elbasan, this Albanian dish is not only incredibly tender, but it’s also packed with local and Mediterranean flavors.
The History of Tave Kosi
Being at the crossroads between empires and political interests, Albania has often been occupied, ruled over, and governed by foreign powers. That’s what introduced a number of cultural influences in Albanian national cuisine. When it comes to tave kosi, its history dates back to the mid-15th century when Ottoman ruler Mehmed II was trying to occupy Kruje, Albania-s then-capital. He set up a military campo that later became the city of Elbasan. Since Mehmed loved this particular casserole-style dish made from kos (yogurt from goat or ewe’s milk) and lamb, that recipe eventually became a national staple.
How to Make This Albanian Recipe
Preparing tave kosi isn’t as difficult as you may think. The base ingredients are lamb meat, eggs, rice, butter, and yogurt. In addition to that, you can add oregano, basil, garlic, and other herbs, typically Mediterranean.
To ensure the meat is tender and soft, it’s best to pre-cook it. To do that, pre-bake or pre-grill the lamb for at least 30-45 minutes before placing it in a greased casserole. Save the juices from the lamb for the yogurt sauce. It’s up to you whether you want to pre-cook the rice as well or let it cook entirely in the casserole. Either way, it should be sprinkled over the lamb.
Now, it’s time to make the yogurt sauce. Mix animal fat (like butter), a bit of flour, and the lamb juices and combine them well until you get a nice thick roux-like mixture. Add that to the mixed yogurt, herbs, and eggs. Pour the sauce over the lamb and rice and add butter on top to get a nice golden crust. Bake covered for about 45 minutes.
Enjoy your Albanian tave kosi with friends and family!